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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: APRIL 27, 1956

Marciano Retires With an Undefeated Record

April 27, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even now his record is a beacon, summoning all those who followed him, in all sports, to match his perfection.

Rocky Marciano, 49-0, announced his retirement 43 years ago today. He remains the only heavyweight champion to have retired undefeated.

He was 32 that day, at a New York news conference, and said he was only 23 pounds over his fighting weight.

Many didn't believe he was through, figuring "the Rock" simply wanted a break, to spend time with his wife and daughter while up-and-coming Floyd Patterson established himself as champion, then Marciano would come back for a huge-money fight against Patterson.

But they all missed the point.

Marciano didn't need money.

His penurious ways were legend among his friends. His purses totaled just more than $4 million, and friends later swore not a nickel of that ever went for dinner tabs, cab fares or bridge tolls.

Marciano, at 5 feet 11, never weighed more than 189 for any of his title defenses, but his short-armed hitting power was enormous.

Marciano died in 1969 in a plane crash.

Also on this date: In 1961, Minnesota Twin catcher Earl Battey's three-run homer ruined the Angels' first game in Los Angeles, 4-2, before 11,931 at Wrigley Field. . . . In 1967, the New York Knicks signed Princeton Rhodes Scholar Bill Bradley to a four-year contract worth $500,000. . . . In 1968, Jimmy Ellis defeated Jerry Quarry in Oakland to earn a piece of the heavyweight championship vacated by Muhammad Ali. . . . In 1971, Henry Aaron hit his 600th home run, but a single by Willie Mays enabled the Giants to beat the Atlanta Braves, 6-5.

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